Heyo, friends of mine! So many of you have kindly mentioned to me that the blogging has not so much been happening since I got back from Italy. I know. I have been MIA recently and there are reasons but none of them are particularly interesting or exciting so please pretend that I listed the reasons out here and you were all “ooohhh…” “ahhhhh….” “I get it, now…”
But for real, one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging much is because I have been working on building some NEW and EXCITING and WONDERFUL things that will be launching SO SO SOON (please note: these all caps are intentional and not because I’m aging rapidly and cannot see things close up) (but also: I am aging rapidly and cannot see things close up.)
New & Exciting Thing #1:
For years, I’ve had a desire to put real energy and mind-muscle into helping women learn to become better communicators of both the Word of God and words in general.
I believe every woman has a story to tell that can change the world – but often lacks the confidence, skill and resources to get that story out on the stage or on the page.
My deep passion is to help women use words effectively and beautifully. That is what I love and, therefore, that is what I shall do (because doing what we love is the best kind of magical.)
I want to help women understand their place in the world of words, men, lexicons and lecterns. Let’s get after this, ladies! There are stories to tell and the big, brilliant gospel to share!
This adventure will take the shape of conferences and consulting wherein I get bossy about the things of which I am certain and honest about the ways I’ve failed in the past twenty years while standing behind a podium or sitting at a keyboard. It’s going to be a good time!
New & Exciting Thing #2:
Another passion of mine is to help women who feel stuck. After twenty years of speaking at just less than 1 BILLION women’s events (number is approximate), I am deeply concerned about the State of Affairs among the women of the world. I’ve met very few who are passionate, determined, happy and fulfilled.
The rest are….waiting.
- Waiting for their real lives to begin.
- Waiting for sorrow or disappointment or disillusionament to stop controlling them.
- Waiting for permission to be seen and heard.
- Waiting to feel qualified.
- Waiting for the chance to truly make a difference with their beautiful lives.
Sisters, this ought not be! Of all the people on the planet, women who love and follow the ways and words of Jesus, should be the most wonderfully wild and free and should say the most exuberant “YES!” to His purpose(s) for each day they’re given. I have been building a seven-hour intensive – the Wild & Free Conference – around this one issue. Created out of the beauty I found on the battlefield and the strategy I used while re-starting my life during my first year of widowhood, it is four hours of teaching + three hours of personal coursework + thirty days followup assignments and journaling. Not gonna lie, it is intense. It is deep. It is challenging. But I think women are ready for exactly this kind of adventure. If you feel too young to settle for the life you have now, but too old to try anything new, this will be the event for you.
New & Exciting (and bittersweet) Thing #3:
This one has to do with #1 & #2. I will be launching a new website! My current blog has been my baby since 2007. It has seen me through sickness, health, grand babies, career changes and death. It holds my thoughts through the deepest valleys of heartache, the green pastures of peace and the harrowing highways of the Shadowlands. It will always be dear and important to me, but it is time for a new Yes. The new blog is not the “yes” – but it is the room where we can all hang out and talk about the yes’s we are saying and living and dreaming. I’m so excited to announce that the new living room for my thoughts and adventures will be called SHEology. It will have everything from study tips to speaker tricks to lipstick recommendations and book reviews. It will also contain a lot of resources for surviving tragedy, loss and pain, because that’s my lane and I try to stay in it. Mostly, it will be a place that gives you permission to be your very best and very worst and very truest self.
So, those are the things and I am bursting at the seams to share all the new with you! I’ll keep posting updates as we go – here on this website and on my facebook and instagram. I’ll also share the old, steady things as well: I still love my job at Westside, I love my people, I love my city and I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time. It’s the blend of old and new that makes life so beautiful, don’t you think?
Can’t wait to meet you out on the edge of the wild!
I married Steve when I was 19, having lived with my sister before that and a bunch of college women before that and my parents before that. I was steeped in the tea of togetherness for as long as I could remember. If there was one thing I really craved for most of my life, it wasn’t more people but more solitude.
When Steve got sick in 2011 and then died in 2015, I was worried about a lot of things, like finances and kids and decisions about our house – but I wasn’t overly worried about being lonely. I knew I would miss him, but I really felt that I was the kind of person who could handle long stretches of aloneness. Other than a specific, recurring nightmare that I had to spend Christmas alone (I know – it’s weird what our brain conjures up, isn’t it?) I felt like I was well equipped and prepared to face my new life without a spouse. And it went pretty well for the first year. I don’t have much more to say about it than that – maybe I didn’t have time to focus on it while trying to rebuild a life for my family, but I don’t remember it being a pressing issue.
Recently, though, especially since returning from Italy, I have discovered the dark, quiet of a lonely life in ways I had never imagined before. I can’t say exactly why it’s happening or why it’s so hard now, I can only say with certainty that it is. And yeah, I have kids living here (though they aren’t here much) and I have a great man just three hours away and friends and family who love me. Yet, often when I wander through my empty house, the silence and solitude feel crushing, suffocating. I run into it in the wee hours, when I wake up alone in my bed, alone in my room – and I gasp to get air, to get hope into my lungs and I clutch the covers tightly and try to hang on until morning. Sometimes I decide that 4:00 a.m. is close enough to morning and I get up, make coffee and run to the refuge of my couch, waiting for the sun to shine beams through the window and remind me that a new day = new mercy.
Let me be clear: this is not a desperate cry for help. My friends and family care for me SO well. My kids are unfailingly kind and thoughtful. My boyfriend works hard to make sure we connect every day and to be available when I need him. I am the luckiest girl in all the land to have such amazing people in my life.
And yet, there’s something about being single that is weary and wearing. Coming home to an empty house often, going to bed alone every night, facing each day on my own, even just sitting down to pay the bills alone…these things create the ethos of my existence. They are unchanging and sometimes unrelenting in their gnawing, empty consistency. Is Jesus in this season? Without a doubt – I feel Him more present than ever before. Is He precious and good and true to His word? Absolutely. But sometimes my heart still feels overwhelmed by all this quiet.
So, what to do with loneliness? I think my best and worst answer is: I don’t know yet. I thought I knew a year ago, but turns out it just wasn’t really an issue then. And I know what I should say: Read your Bible, play worship music, lean into Jesus – fine ideas, all. But they ring a bit hollow for those who are longing to feel the warmth and camaraderie of a skin-and-bones human, or ache to feel circled by the kind of always-available friendship you don’t have to work up or work for.
Here’s where I want to give you a principle or three. I want to wrap it all up in hope and five steps to happiness. But the only hope I have to give the lonely today is this: I’m here, too. Lots of us live right here in the quiet wild. Just because you love Him, doesn’t mean you don’t feel it and just because you feel it, doesn’t mean you’re doing life wrong. It just means you’re doing life. And I’m proud of you and cheering you on from the cheap seats. Please know it. (And leave a comment if you’ve got a great idea for the rest of us!)
I’ve been sitting long and quiet this morning, trying to figure out whether or not to share something out loud. It feels extra vulnerable, which is why it’s a fight to wrap it into words, but also why I need to.
For months, I have been dealing with suffocating anxiety over a health issue in my life. Health stuff is a powerful trigger for me. My friends and sweetheart have extended endless kindness, compassion and patience as I’ve cried my way through sleepless nights, but also refused to get actual answers to the issue I was facing. All the worry finally culminated in a trip to Portland to see a friend of mine who is a doctor, who ordered the tests I had been avoiding since September. He ended our visit with one powerful sentence that keeps reverberating in my head: “The one and only question we need to answer today, Bo, is: Do you trust God with your whole life?” The night before the tests, I tossed and turned in my bed, writing a story in my head of the disaster that awaited inside those results. Just as I considered the idea of canceling the appointment in the morning, I heard a tiny voice in my spirit say, “That test is the only door out of the life you’re living now.” And I knew the voice was right. I loathe living in fear and taking a hard run at that door was the only way out, even if I faced something difficult on the other side. I had to reluctantly agree that any reality was a better option than living in the unknown, because real grace meets us in our real stories.
Results: I had the tests and I am healthy and fine. I’m trying not to focus on the many minutes and months I lost to anxiety, but it’s tough – because the door was there the whole time and I was afraid to use it. I wasted so much energy and sacrificed so much peace.
I share this only because I have run into so many people this week who are dealing with the very same issue, packaged up in different circumstances. Sometimes a situation seems so complex that everything looks like a house of mirrors, but I believe there is always a door. It may not be the final door to freedom, but it is the next door in the process. If you’re locked up in a life filled with fear or doubt or confusion, the one and only question you need to answer immediately is: Do you trust God with your whole life? And the only thing you need to do is take a real hard run at that door.
With hope and courage,
The Italians I met while in Florence have one thing in common: they are content with their lives and feel lucky to be living them. Most of them have spent time in America – usually more than a year – and they perceive the American way as being quite difficult and angsty. They feel we are obsessed with having the best of everything and in achieving notoriety. My new friend, Daniel, said, “Americans have to find the best coffee, the best place to eat – here, we can just sit in a piazza that’s really nothing special and drink coffee without worrying if it’s the best or if we’re seen having the best. We just enjoy sitting and living in the beauty of that one moment.” He mentioned that in America, he felt he couldn’t take a break just to live – it had to be consumed with work or striving or getting more.
Another man runs a beautiful leather shop around the corner from my apartment. At the end of our shopping trip, enamored by his knowledge and customer service skills, one of us said, “Paolo, you’re going to be famous!” He smiled and shook his head like we had offered him a shot glass full of rat poison. “Oh, no. I don’t want fame. I only want to love what I do. Fame is not good for people.” He expounded a little, and I don’t remember all that he said, but his implication was clear: Americans love fame, Italians understand that fame is too much work.
I want to agree with them, while adding a personal disclaimer for my own lifestyle. Yeah, that’s how Americans are, but not me. Poor, poor Americans. However, I can’t deny it’s a part of me as I wander the streets looking for the best restaurants and the best shops and the best things to bring home – and in the way I feel I’ve wasted a moment if I haven’t captured it in photos or words on a page. I see it in myself as I enjoy the most beautiful wine country landscape I’ve ever laid eyes on, while fighting a driving impatience to get to the next vineyard and see if it’s better. I miss entire moments of my life – wide swaths of time and experience, in fact – because I’m so busy processing whether or not that experience does or does not live up to my expectations.
And this is what I want to bring home – not from Italy, but from Italians. I want their deep love of family and hospitality, yes, but more than that – their deep love of living in exactly the moment they’re in with exactly the things that they have. I want to live a life that is able to sink deep roots into the rich soil of the right-here, right-now beauty I’ve been given. I want to refuse the endless, aching longing for attention, admiration and just “more and better” that swallows the wonder of a million little ordinary blessings whole. It will be hard because I’ve been this way a long time; but contentment + gratitude = peace; and that is the goal I’m bringing home.
With hope and great gratitude to the people in Florence who have shared their lives with me,
I haven’t been updating much lately because I’ve been busy. But it’s been the good kind of busy which is Italian busy instead of the bad kind of busy which is American busy. Someday I will try to write something explaining what a profound impact discovering this distinction has made on me ,but for now, I’m just living out this dream month.
If you’re following along on social media, you know that my best friend and her husband showed up right after Whitney and Mekenzie left and they will be with me through the end of my time here. It has been beyond wonderful to have them here. If you have the chance to have the same bff for 35 years, take it. And if you have a chance to also love her husband, make that happen too. I am so lucky to have them in my life.
A couple of days ago, my favorite boyfriend came to visit. We’ve planned this for awhile, but still keep having trouble believing it’s really true. We’re really here in Italy. It’s been so fun. I spent my birthday here when I first arrived, and Cliff & I also celebrated our one-year dating anniversary here in Florence. I do not kid: I feel like the MOST blessed girl who ever lived.
This is my little Florence tradition of watching out my window when I know someone is about to arrive by taxi.
This is me being very happy and Cliff being deliriously tired.
We had our anniversary date at 4 Leoni across the Ponte Vecchio. It was the best food, with the not-best service ever, but sometimes the strangest experiences provide the best stories down the road. That’ll be this dinner. And this moment on the beautiful bridge, walking home afterwards? Perfection.
Since Cliff has been here, the four of us have done lots of shopping and exploring and spent a whole day in San Gimignano and wine country. We’ve also hung out in our sweats in the apartment, eating panini sandwiches and telling stories from 30 years ago. It’s been quite brilliant.
As my time here begins to wind down, I’m doing two things: 1) Trying to capture all that I’ve seen and learned into words and 2) Focusing hard on the good things awaiting me at home. This trip has been…wow, I feel lost for words. It’s been so much more everything than I imagined. More joy, more angst, more beauty, more wonder, more fun than I could have dreamed. (Also, more money – but I’m trying not to focus on that.)
Thanks again for following along – your kind comments and travel tips have been a great companion for me along the way.